Disciples of Jesus are followers of Jesus.
We walk not only where He walks, but in the manner in which He walks. Being a disciple means that we acknowledge the lordship of Jesus and seek to see that lordship actualized in every area of our lives. That’s what disciples do, and there’s really no other way.
Abraham Kuyper once said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
Our hearts, minds, aspirations, goals - those are all included in those square inches. A disciple does not live a segmented life in which some parts are devoted to Jesus and some are not. A disciple recognizes that Jesus is Lord over everything.
Jesus’ Call to Discipleship
Jesus’ first call to discipleship in Scripture gives us a good picture of how a disciple responds to Him:
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. - Mark 1:16–18
The same call to discipleship goes out today. It’s a call that is indiscriminate toward its audience. It goes out to the young and old, the rich and poor. It goes to people of every tribe and tongue and nation. It’s a call that does not make qualifications or exceptions, and though simple in its wording, it is profound in its implications. To every one of us, Jesus still says: “Follow me.”
But there is a little detail at the end of these verses that’s slyly descriptive of some of the implications of embracing that call of Christ. The detail in question is here:
“They left their nets…"
Why would Mark drip this little detail into the account? Perhaps he was just trying to be descriptive. These early disciples were holding something and then suddenly they weren’t, and Mark wanted us to have a full picture of what happened. It’s not just about the physical presence of those nets, but what they represented for these men.
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To Be a Disciple, You Must Drop Your Nets
These men were fishermen, and they were fishermen because their father was a fisherman. And his dad was, too. In a society in which there wasn’t the same upward mobility through education and opportunity as we have today, these nets were not only a tool of the trade. These nets were the source of family stability and security. Even more, they were emblematic of their identity in the community.
When you take all that together, those “nets” aren’t so easy to drop.
But, they still dropped their nets. They symbolically left their old way of life. They broke with the past—their past vocation, their sense of self, and their identity— and fully embraced the future with Jesus. That’s what a disciple does.
The Call to Discipleship Means You Must Pick Up Your Cross
According to Jesus, a disciple doesn’t just drop their nets. Jesus isn’t calling us only to lay something down; He’s calling us to take something up. With the hands left empty of our nets, the disciple is called to take up his cross. Taken from the same gospel of Mark:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” - Mark 8:34
You can’t pick up the cross if you’re still holding onto the nets. You can’t follow Jesus is you’re still holding onto your old marks of self-identification and preservation. You can’t embrace the Savior if you’re holding onto yourself.
Disciples recognize the worth and value of the One who calls and see the “nets” in their hands in comparison to Him. They suddenly realize they have a greater identity and purpose than merely fishing, so they leave and follow Jesus instead.
For disciples, following Jesus is both an exit and an entrance, an ending as well as a beginning. The call of discipleship includes both laying down and picking up.
So may it be with us.
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